Fantasy gaming company Dream11 will be the main sponsor of the Indian Premier League for its 2020 edition, paying the league 50% less for the privilege than its previous backer, Chinese smartphone maker Vivo, league chairman Brijesh Patel said on Tuesday.
Vivo had secured the IPL sponsorship rights for 2018-2022 for nearly 22 billion rupees ($293 million) but pulled out of this year’s tournament amid a backlash against Chinese firms in India following a clash on the two countries’ border in June in which 20 Indian soldiers were killed.
Some social media users were critical of BCCI’s decision to award the rights to Dream11, which counts Chinese tech giant Tencent among its marquee investors, given the anti-China sentiments.
Patel told Reuters that Dream11 had submitted a winning bid of 2.22 billion rupees ($29 million), compared with the 4.4 billion Vivo had been paying annually to the Indian cricket board, which owns the popular Twenty20 tournament.
“There were three bids in all,” Patel, the chairman of the IPL governing council, said by phone.
The franchise-based league will be played in the United Arab Emirates from Sept. 19 this year after India decided it could not host it due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Dream11, which last year became India’s first gaming startup to be valued at over $1 billion, has faced legal challenges in the past due to the similarities of fantasy gaming to gambling, which is largely illegal in the country.
A court ruled that fantasy gaming involves skill rather than chance, enabling Dream11, which is also the fantasy gaming partner for the International Cricket Council and the NBA in India, to operate.
Finding a new lead IPL sponsor in a few weeks had been seen as a test of cricket’s status for brands in India. The much lower amount agreed on reflects the impact of the pandemic on the business climate and sport, both of which have been massively disrupted around the world.